Sellers were promoting food that was gluten-free, sugar-free, kosher, vegan and just plain delicious.
By Bethany Kandel
Imagine being set loose in a space about six football fields in size filled with tons of chocolate, cheese, chips, soda, candy, ice cream, and so much more. Well, I got to live my food fantasy tasting hundreds of new specialty food items at booths that were stationed from one end of the Jacob Javits Center to the other. The occasion? The annual Fancy Food Show where companies display their latest products for the press and the trade in what has become a massive food orgy.
There I was—a kid in a massive candy store! And the vendors wanted me to try everything. So I did! It was a delicious—but—tough job!
As I walked the aisles it was immediately clear that sellers were promoting food that was gluten free and sugar free, non-GMO, kosher and vegan. It was hard to even find gluten! What I did find was lots of protein plus quinoa and chia and other healthy offerings; even so bacon sure reared its head. And forget the plain old potato chip! I found everything from beet to lentil chips and everything in between to sate your salt craving.
So after tasting as much as I could (I did actually have to turn some samples down), I’m here to report on some of the top food trends to hit Whole Foods, Fairway or your local food market. Some food is in stores now; more will be available soon. If your store doesn’t carry an item, ask the manager to order it or check online.
Drink your nutrients. Big this year is a new category of grab-and-go drinkable soups, perfect for hot summer days when you need a little more than a yogurt or smoothie, but crave something cold and refreshing. Several companies are in on the “souping” trend:
Try the Züpa Noma carrot coconut lime, beet orange basil, tomatillo kale jalapeno or other superfood soups the next time you want lunch on the go. As little as 60 calories a bottle with 14% fiber (for the beet), you’ll find four-plus servings of whole, organic vegetables—seed to skin—in each container.
Fawen soups come in beet and cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower and sweet potato and red lentil. They’re coconut water based—less than 5 grams of sugar per 8 fluid ounces—organic, vegan and shelf-stable.
Zumo Gazpacho is a perfect pick-me-up made from naturally sourced ingredients from Spain including purified Mediterranean seawater, instead of dry salt, which delivers 78 bio-available trace minerals. It was this year’s SOFI Awards New Product winner in the “best new ready-to-drink cold beverage” category at the show.
Goodbye potato chips! There are new guys in the healthy snack aisle. The “Un Potato Chip” from Natural Sins includes crispy beets plus pineapple, coconut and mango. These chips are billed as having only two ingredients—whole slices of fruit or vegetable and raw cane sugar. About 92 to 100 calories a serving (though coconut is up to 168).
Try the flavorful, crispy broccoli bites from Rhythm Super Foods, which are never fried, but dehydrated at low temperatures to maximize their nutritional potency. They come in Asian citrus, zesty nacho and garden ranch. Remember: your mom said broccoli was good for you.
If you want a real crunch, try Biena Chickpea Snacks. They go through a unique dry roasting process that leaves them light and crispy so you won’t break a tooth. Plus they’re high in fiber and protein. Weight Watchers endorsed them with 3 Smart Points per pack. Out soon will be their classic sea salt roasted chickpeas covered in fair trade chocolate—in dark milk and salted caramel. A single-serve pack has 130 to 140 calories and 4 grams of protein.
My Super Pops are air popped, crispy, gluten-free mini popcorn chips made of organic corn, quinoa, chia, flax and sunflower seeds. How can you go wrong? They come in white cheddar, kettle and honey BBQ and are 120 calories per serving. A great lunchbox treat that kids (and adults) won’t realize is made of healthy stuff.
We all know that New York City tap water is the best, but that hasn’t stopped a myriad of companies from bottling their own. There’s also a growing number of flavored waters from sources that range from birch and maple trees to bees. Here are some newbies on the market to keep you hydrated and healthy:
Bee’s Water is a mix of filtered water, 100% pure grade honey and antioxidant vitamins A, C and E to help support your well-being and a healthy immune system. Serve it hot or cold. It doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners, refined white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Flavors include lemon, orange, blueberry and cinnamon: 40 to 45 calories per serving.
Treo Organic Birch Water Infusion is made from the water-like sap tapped from—you guessed it—birch trees and touted as the new “super drink.” The appeal: its high levels of minerals and lower-sugar content than some other waters on the market. The strawberry birch water is yummy and only 10 calories a serving.
Watermelon is another new water on the scene from the DRINKmaple people. DRINKmelon comes in regular watermelon, tart cherry and lime flavors. It’s also pasteurized and shelf stable. Makes a great mixer!
Enter rose water with saffron from H2rOse. Rose water is commonly used to cleanse the skin and tighten pores; drinking rose water is said to purify the body and help with digestion, thanks to the flavonoids, tannins and other essential vitamins it contains. Plus, it is said to decrease appetite.
Maple Mania and Cold Brew
Remember when the only maple was syrup? Well now there’s everything from maple flavored condiments, sauces to beverages. Make way for maple water from several sources.
DRINKMaple is pure maple water collected from Vermont trees and that’s it. Naturally hydrating, filled with 46 nutrients and half the calories of coconut water. Thirty calories per 12 ounce serving.
Happy Tree Maple Water joins the trend and offers the same benefits: only 35 calories per 12 ounces. The organic water comes in original, lemonade, ginger and cold brew coffee flavors.
Sap! is a maple soda and seltzer. No added sugar, but 90 calories per can.
Forget cold brew. That’s so 2016. The latest innovation is sparkling carbonated coffee with a hint of citrus. Upruit is one company offering Sparkling Meyer Lemonade and Tart Cherry Cold-Brew Coffee for those who need an afternoon jolt, but want an alternative to their usual iced beverage. It has the same caffeine in a 12-ounce can as one cup of coffee and no added sugar.
We all know that yogurt has been a hot field for new flavors, textures and types over the years and this trend continues with most of the popular brands continuing to introduce original items:
Hello savory! That’s the latest trend in yogurt as companies add bolder and more unique flavors than typical fruits. Made from the milk of grass-fed cows fed in the Berkshires, Blue Hill Yogurt introduces some unexpected flavors, including butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, tomato, parsnip and beet.
Based on Indian street snacks, The Chaat Company has a line of savory, high protein yogurt with flavors like tamarind date, mango chili and cucumber mint with hints of turmeric, and green chili peppers all topped with crunchy lentil puffs. Perfect to add to a baked potato or otherwise step up your lunch or dinner.
Chobani continues to expand its “flip” line with my new favorite, Mint Chocolate Chip; mint low-fat yogurt with pieces of dark chocolate, chocolate cookies and coated rice crisps. At 190 calories it’s a perfect late night snack….or don’t tell, even a breakfast treat. The company keeps adding more flavors and you can test out the latest at their cafés in Soho and Tribeca. Also be on the lookout through October for their limited batch fall flavors including blended yogurts in Maple and Pumpkin Spice, and Pumpkin Harvest Crisp Flip with pieces of pie crust, pecans and glazed pumpkin seeds. (My mouth is watering.)
Joining the dessert-anytime tradition, Siggi’s is upping the game with its new decadent chocolate triple cream yogurt. Famous for not adding lots of sugar, it’s made with 9% milk fat and unsweetened chocolate; 170 calories with 9 grams of protein. Debuting in stores this month.
And speaking of protein, Muuna is trying to change the boring image of cottage cheese with its creamy, fruit-on-the-bottom flavors of mango, peach and strawberry. The single-serve cups have about 15 grams of protein per 5.3 ounces, more than many yogurts, and about 130 calories.
If your idea of jerky is that stale, tough stuff once primarily sold in gas station convenience stores, think again. These days there are dozens of new flavors that offer a way to get some quick protein on the run. Most are now roasted so they’re softer and easier to chew. Plus they’re no longer loaded with nitrates and other preservatives and they‘re made from grass-fed, organic and hormone-free meats. Ok, some are high in sodium, but overall they’re healthier than in the past and come in lots of cool flavors.
I am a bacon lover, and the hickory smoked Uncured Spicy Candied Bacon Bakkwa (a jerky-type snack from Singapore) from Little Red Dot was even better than the real stuff (if that’s possible). Seasoned in chili and brown sugar, it has 120 calories per serving and 3 grams of protein.
New kid on the block, the Brooklyn company Watermelon Road Snack Co. introduces dehydrated fruit jerky with no additives, preservatives or refined sugar. Born in the Hamptons and produced in Brooklyn, it comes in flavors like watermelon lemonade, pineapple mojito and smoky balsamic eggplant. Chewy and moist, it’s more like dried fruit.
Fruit is best fresh, but when you need it on-the-go and in all seasons, you will find other ways to get your fix. Here are some good ones:
Why do kids get to have all the fun? There are now fruit leathers and snacking pouches for adults carrying grown-up flavors. Shine Organics—the makers of Happy Family organic baby food —offers squeezable fruit pouches in such flavors as apple-guava-kale-strawberry-parsley-chia and pear-celery-coconut-lime-green tea-chia. Others have turmeric, wheatgrass and passion flower added.
And You Love Fruit has a line of organic, natural fruit and veggie fruit leather in such flavors as key lime, carrot chia seed and pomberry acai. No sugar added and each piece is in the shape of a heart for you to peel and munch.
Barnana has come up with a great way for you to get your potassium before or after a workout. Its organic chewy banana bites are like sun-dried banana chunks. Each 3.4 oz. bag has five bananas in it! And be sure to try the peanut butter covered ones for a late night sweet fix. You’ll be hooked. Plus, what I like about this company is that they are on a mission to end food waste. They take the “imperfect” bananas rejected for export and turn them into these delicious snacks.
The Bronx company, Fruits In Chocolate has a variety of covered goodies, but the one that stood out for me is their dark chocolate covered with whole prunes. It may not be the fruit you’d think of for a treat, but it’s so soft and tasty you won’t even guess what fruit it is: The perfect way to keep your sweet tooth happy and your body regular. Each individual wrapped piece is 70 calories; perfect for throwing in your purse for a late afternoon pick-me-up that’s high in fiber and natural antioxidants.
Spice up your breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks with these new add-ons:
Avocado toast is a snap anytime with Go Avo, a delicious mayo-type creamy spread that’s 85% avocado. At 25 calories per serving, it’s free of eggs, soy, dairy, gluten and cholesterol. It comes in basil, jalapeño and original flavors.
Made from beetroot and apples, The Foraging Fox’s Beetroot Ketchup offers an alternative to the standard version. It comes in the original, smoked, and hot and is free from allergens, artificial colorings, flavorings and sweeteners. It’s also a really pretty color.
Nature’s candy, the date, is now a spread to eat with cheese or on sandwiches as a meat rub or cooking glaze. Or just sneak a spoonful of this family recipe with a hint of orange blossom and rose water. Kogos Mediterranean Date Spread has no added sugar, pectin, gelatin or preservatives.
I guess you can tell I love bacon because here’s another one….sweet, spreadable Bacon Jam from TBJ Gourmet. It’s spreadable heaven in a jar. Nitrate free and low sodium, it comes in classic, sweet chili and black peppercorn. I use it when I sauté Brussel sprouts for that little something special.
Bethany Kandel is a New York City journalist and author of several books including The Expert Parent. She is the founder of www.breastcancerfreebies.com, a site that helps patients and survivors find hundreds of freebies, including wigs, hats, retreats, magazines, support groups and more to make their breast cancer journey easier.